Omaggio al Divino (2009) for two guitars was written in commemoration of the 75th birthday of musicologist Arthur Ness, who was an important mentor to me during my doctoral studies at the University of Southern California. The three movements celebrate the music of the Renaissance lute composer Francesco Canova da Milano (1497-1543), who, along with Michelangelo, was known as “Il Divino.”
I. Fantasia Antica is my transcription for solo guitar of Francesco’s Fantasia-Ricercar No. 3 for solo lute, adapted, down a minor third, from Ness’ 1970 edition of Francesco’s complete lute music. I have used modern notation and added dynamics, plus fermatas at what I consider natural cadence or “breathing” points to create a freer, more lyrical performance. The piece is to be performed with lute tuning (E A D F# B E).
II. Fantasia Nuova, another guitar solo, is my own work, inspired by the previous fantasia. My fantasia has the same formal proportions and phrase structure as Francesco’s fantasia, using a pandiatonic extension of Francesco’s harmonic outlines. My work does not mirror Francesco’s imitative, often-canonic texture, but it does employ his concentrated motivic technique, which Ness described in his notes to me on No. 3 as “two ideas by variation.”
III. Le Due Fantasie Insieme for two guitars presents Francesco’s fantasia and my fantasia played simultaneously. This duet is in the tradition of a series of parts for second lute written by the Flemish composer Johannes Matelart (1538-1607) to accompany some of Francesco’s works. As Ness has pointed out, these added parts “anticipate by several centuries Grieg’s second piano parts for Mozart sonatas.” In this case, however, my own “Fantasia Nuova” is intended to stand on its own as a separate piece and, when played with the Francesco, to be, not an accompaniment, but a dramatic opposition, hence the constant use of contrasting meters to create cross accents.
— Robert Xavier Rodríguez